Rabbi Thomas P. Liebschutz
Hebrew Home of Greater Washington
Our Bible makes no pretenses about the difficulty of life. For the Jews everything comes down to one child, one individual. The future of the Jewish people and faith also come down to the individual. What we do, how we identify as Jews, makes a tremendous difference. Judaism says each individual is worth the entire world; each individual is an entire universe.
This past Spring we saw an example of this in politics when Republican Senator James Jeffords of Vermont became an Independent. By changing his party affiliation, he tilted the balance of power in the US Senate to the Democrats.
Our Torah portions for Rosh HaShanah inform us that no sooner is Isaac born then he is about to be lost. Genesis 21 records his birth; Genesis 22 would have us believe, almost to the last moment, that we are reading about Isaac’s death.
What has happened? Where is the worth and importance of the individual, of this Isaac? Has G-d forgotten G-d’s promises to the Jewish people so quickly? Is Isaac to be snuffed out so soon? Does the individual count for nothing? Are we truly dust?
Well, as you know, all was not lost. Even though Abraham, blindly follows the dictates of a G-d who, like society, can dehumanize us …….Abraham is stopped short of sacrificing Isaac by this same G-d. From this act our Torah is telling us: “Everyone counts. Each of us is Isaac. No one can be sacrificed.”
If you have ever felt that society has failed to notice you, then the following examples of this behavior should strike close to home.
What about those on Medicare or Medicaid who cannot afford to pay for prescription medications? Has our society forsaken the worth of the individual when it comes to our health? Why doesn’t our government provide an affordable prescription drug program for every older citizen and those with disabilities? G-d knows its time for such a plan. “Notice me” we say. “We’re important, too. Don’t sacrifice me.”
And what about Israel? Is the world sacrificing our beloved Jewish state turning her into a pariah nation?
Other than the United States, very few nations stand up for Israel in the court of world opinion, the votes at the United Nations, or at the recently concluded Conference On Racism, so-called, in Durban, South Africa……which spewed Arab anti-Semitism, couched as anti-Zionism against Israel.
In support of Israel, the United States correctly walked out of the Durban Conference. We have paid a terrible price for it. I believe Radical Islam prepared last weeks strikes against New York City and Washington months ago. What the terrorists simply needed was something to push them over, an excuse. Durban was that excuse. Now, our grieving nation must respond to Arab terrorism (and I am assuming, for the moment, Radical Islam was responsible for the unspeakable World Trade Center, Pentagon and Pennsylvania crashes). And we must respond with the utmost strength.
For too long Western nations have turned their backs on the heinous acts emanating from the Middle East. Israel, always the litmus test, has been made to carry the brunt of the burden. Most of the Arab nations are not our friends and President Bush has correctly stated that terrorists, and the nations that harbor them, will be made to pay. Acts of war have been committed and as soon as the United States has hard evidence as to who the perpetrators are, and I mean all of the perpetrators and their host nations, we should carry on a sustained campaign against them. It will be costly and bloody, but this is what must be done.
Israel has been living traumatized for almost a year with the same kind of terror that swept over the United States in 24 hours. The world watched the Jews getting slaughtered but condemned her if she did anything to defend herself against unwarranted aggression. The media led the world to believe the Palestinians were innocent and Arafat was some kind of statesman rather than the ruthless murderer and terrorist that he is. We Jews know better; unfortunately, in light of last week’s tragedies, now the world knows it too.
Last week, after the Twin Towers collapsed and the Pentagon was in flames, the Palestinians, among other Arab nations, rejoiced in their streets, firing automatic weapons, and epithets, triumphantly into the sky.
Can the Palestinian Authority, which sacrifices its children by deliberately placing them in harms way and encourages suicide missions against innocent Israeli civilians, ever be trusted as a peace negotiating partner?
With Arafat, y’mach shmo, (and some other Arab leaders), the ends always justify the means. The Palestinian Authority is, in reality, like most other Arab countries, a police state. The individual has no rights if they go against the ruling authority. Every Palestinian is a silent Isaac, sacrificed, if necessary, on an unholy altar. Obviously, Palestinians cannot protest their condition and survive. They are the Arab world’s pawns……used to destroy the State of Israel. They, like Asama ben Laden, must be stopped. Israel should be given the green light to more aggressively defend herself.
At this sad and difficult hour for all Americans, American Jews must step up our efforts on behalf of Israel. The dark clouds that have overtaken us may present a golden opportunity. The tragic events last week reveal the stark, naked terror the Israelis have been forced to live with for the past eleven and a half months. Now, however, the world may not be so quick to condemn us. Certainly this is what we pray for.
Intifada Two has taken a tremendous toll on our Israeli brothers and sisters. How much more can they take. Nerves there are frayed to the breaking point. And Jewish tourism to Israel is down to almost nothing.
Rabbi Shlomo Risken, the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, has said: “If Israel in Disney Land then we only go there when the sun is shining…..because who wants to go to Disney Land when it is raining, when things are difficult. But if Israel is Motherland then we want to go there even when the sun isn’t shining.”
We are all probably aware of tourism statistics to the Jewish State over the past year. They are pathetic. Since Arafat’s War Against the Jews began on Sept. 29, 2000, tourism is off 80% or more. The Israelis feel abandoned. They are on the front lines and, as we in America now know, in dealing with this enemy, the border are not the front lines. On the contrary, there are no borders and the front lines are everywhere. Suicide assaults are not necessarily directed against soldiers but civilians. Anyone may be singled out, at any moment, to make the ultimate sacrifice. No individual is sacred, unsacrificable.
What do we American Jews owe Israel in her hour of need? We must support her in every way we can, including traveling there. If we stop going because of fear….……this is exactly what Arafat wants.
What our Israelis brothers and sisters are crying out to us this Rosh HaShanah is: “We’re important. We count. Don’t forget us” as has the rest of the world. And we must promise that we never shall Israel.
Just as Israel and her citizens don’t want to be forgotten, neither do you who as residents call the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington your primary home. One of the reasons I prize being at the Home as your rabbi so much is because you, the residents, have taught me so much about life. Here I work to insure that each one of you is counted, valued and not forgotten in this nursing home. Like Isaac, who is not
sacrificed in Jewish tradition, no one who enters into these walls and institution is sacrificed. We are a caring community striving to live up to the best of Jewish tradition and what it has to say about the treatment of the elderly and, personally, I want to thank each of you and your families for giving my life new meaning and joy each and every day. You are wonderful and I value you.
May this Rosh HaShanah usher in a New Year of health and meaning for each one of you, for all of our people, for Israel and for this precious American land of freedom in which we live……
And let us,